Ascension Day

The Cross Country Parishes

Rev Anne will be celebrating Communion on behalf of the four parishes at 7.00 pm in St Mary's.  

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Sermon, readings, prayers & hymns below.

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8pm BBC Radio 4 a Christian Service.

A Sermon For Ascension Day

Psalm 47; Acts 1: 1 – 11

My father liked Ascension Day as a child.  The whole school attended the local church and when the service was over, the Governors granted pupils a holiday for the rest of the day.  I liked Ascension Day as a child.  It was the day we had breakfast quickly so we were outside by 8.00 am to hear the church choir singing from the church roof… or if it was raining and the roof was slippery from the church porch.  When I was in Cambridge training for the ministry, I like Ascension Day was the day we went on the college roof before breakfast to sing an Ascension Day hymn and choristers at St John’s College sang from the tower of St John’s at midday (unless it rained; I only ever heard them in the chapel atrium).

Ascension Day is one of the 9 major festivals of the church year, but has lost popularity in recent years.  It’s a day as good Anglicans we are obliged to attend church, but it’s on a Thursday (always).  It’s inconvenient, even if there is an evening service…

There is, of course, a much bigger problem with Ascension Day than being on a Thursday.  It is difficult to understand.  Even if it was a Bank Holiday, I suspect it would still be unpopular.  It isn’t about a new born baby; it isn’t about a man dying on a cross (though that’s not popular either).  It’s not about a man rising from the dead (still popular even if we don’t understand).  Ascension Day is about… well, it’s about Jesus ascending back into Heaven.  Apparently disappearing through the clouds….  It’s all a bit challenging for our modern, rational minds.  It’s a bit comical really, especially as painters down the age have painted clouds with feet hanging out of them. 

And there is another problem.  After the years of Jesus’ physical presence on earth touching people, eating with them, laughing and crying with them, Jesus is disappearing.  Leaving his disciples in a very dramatic and final way, and just as they were getting used to him appearing in his post-resurrection state.

Set aside the comical means of Jesus’ ascension (and that is a very real problem), Jesus disappearance and his physical absence are real problems.  Especially this year when so many of us remain in self-isolation and those who are working are either living away from families, or are unable to touch them and embrace them.

I was struck by some words which Janet Malbon wrote in an e-mail to the Thursday Bible Study Group this morning.  In it, she wrote about a line in the Celtic Prayers which John shared with us at the beginning of lockdown.  Christ to comfort and restore me.  Janet wrote: It makes me think of a father comforting a child when he falls, giving the child a cuddle, maybe putting a plaster to a cut, then setting him on his feet again, patting his head and saying 'Off you go, you'll be fine now'. 

One of the cruellest things about COVID-19 is the way in which containing the virus means putting those basic human instincts to one side.  Unless we live in the same household, we cannot embrace or touch those we love or express our affection and care to friends through touch, or even our physical presence.  And now, on Ascension Day, it seems even Jesus is disappearing and leaving us alone.

Thankfully, that is not the full story.  The days between Ascension Day and Pentecost are days of waiting.   Jesus did not return himself at Pentecost, but he did send the Holy Spirit to be our comforter.  Unlike the physical Jesus, even in his post-Resurrection form, the Holy Spirit can be present in multiple places at once, comforting and restoring those who love Jesus in any age and in any place.

Ascension Day is a bit like VE Day.  The Second World War was won.  The outcome could not be changed, but the war had not ended.  Around the world, there were mopping up exercises to be done.  VJ Day did not occur until  the war in Japan ended on 15 August.

There is a parallel with Jesus’ victory over sin and all that is wrong in the world.  On Good Friday, Jesus defeated evil and sin on the cross.  On Easter Day the final enemy of death itself was defeated in Resurrection.  Now, on Ascension Day, Jesus ascends into heaven, taking his place at the right hand of God.  From there he rules over the nations of the world.  The war is won.  But until Jesus returns at the end of time, there are mopping-up exercises to be done.  Evil and sin have been defeated; Jesus rules over all things, but there is a mopping up exercise to do, reminding the powers of darkness that Jesus is in charge.  For now, we live in the in-between times.  Wating for Jesus to return and bringing his Kingdom with him in a newly created world.  

And as we wait, we do so, conscious of the comfort and restoration of the Holy Spirit present with us, and strengthening us, whatever our circumstances.

S Anne Lawson

18 May 2020

Prayers for Ascension Day

The Collect for Ascension Day

Grant, we pray, almighty God,

that as we believe your only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ,

to have ascended into the heavens

so we in heart and mind may also ascend

and with him continually dwell;

who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

The Post-Communion Prayer for Ascension Day

God our Father,

you have raised our humanity in Christ

and have fed us with the bread of heaven:

mercifully grant that, nourished

with such spiritual blessings,

we may set our hearts in the heavenly places;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Prayers of Intercession

Let us join our prayers with those of our Saviour Christ,

seeking the Father’s blessing and the gifts of the Spirit.

Jesus Christ, great high priest,

living for ever to intercede for us,

we pray for the Church, your broken body in the world…

Lord, hear us.

Lord, graciously hear us.

Jesus Christ, king of righteousness,

enthroned at the right hand of the majesty on high,

we pray for the world; may it be subject to your gentle rule…

Lord hear us,

Lord, graciously hear us.

Jesus Christ, Son of Man,

drawing humanity into the life of God,

we pray for our brothers and sisters in need, distress or sorrow…

Lord hear us,

Lord, graciously hear us.

Jesus Christ, pioneer of our salvation,

bringing us to glory through your death and resurrection,

surround with your saints and angels

those who have died trusting your promises…

Lord, hear us.

Lord, graciously hear us.

Jesus Christ, Lord over all things,

ascended far above the heavens and filling the universe,

we ask for the gifts we need to work in your service…

Lord, hear us.

Lord, graciously hear us.

Jesus Christ,

keep the Church in the unity of the Spirit

and in the bond of peace,

and bring the whole created order to worship at your feet:

for you are alive and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.  Amen.


All Hail the power of Jesus’ Name

Hail the day that sees Him rise

Lord Enthroned in heavenly splendour

The head that once was crowned with thorns

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